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Monday, June 17th, 2024
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
Matthew 21

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New TestamentSchaff's NT Commentary

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Verse 1

Matthew 21:1. Bethphage (‘house of figs’). Mark and Luke add: ‘and Bethany’ (‘house of dates’). The two places were probably near each other, but of the former no trace remains. Bethphage was probably nearer to Jerusalem. Some suppose that Bethany lay on the road from Jericho to Jerusalem, and our Lord having turned aside to visit it, now returned to Bethphage on the direct route.

The mount of Olives. This lay between Bethphage and Jerusalem, about ‘a Sabbath day’s journey’ from the city (Acts 1:12). There were three roads to the city, a winding northern one, a steep footpath directly over the summit, and a southern road, usually taken by horsemen and caravans. The usual opinion has selected the middle road as that taken by our Lord on this occasion, but the view that He passed over the southern or main road, accords best with the various accounts of the procession and its incidents. See on Luke 19:41. The hill is about seven hundred feet high, overlooking every part of Jerusalem, which lies west of it, separated from it by the valley of the Kidron (‘brook Cedron,’ John 18:1). The Garden of Gethsemane is on the west side of the Mount. The temple was in the foreground as one looked down on the city from this elevation.

Then Jesus sent two disciples. Their names are not given. ‘The sending of the two disciples proves the deliberate intention of Jesus to give a certain solemnity to this scene. Till then He had withdrawn from popular expressions of homage; but once at least He wished to show Himself as King Messiah to His people. It was a last call addressed by Him to the population of Jerusalem. This course, besides, could no longer compromise His work. He knew that in any case death awaited Him in the capital.’ (Godet.)

Verses 1-11

The date of the public entry into Jerusalem (narrated by all four Evangelists) was Sunday, the 10 th of the month Nisan. We hold that our Lord ate the Passover at the usual time (see on chap. Matthew 26:17), and was crucified on Friday. Reckoning back from this date, we infer that He left Jericho on Friday, the 8 th of Nisan, reached Bethany the next day (‘six days before the passover;’ John 12:1). On the evening of that day, after the Sabbath had ended, the anointing by Mary in the house of Simon the leper took place (see John 12:2). On the reasons for preferring this date, see on chap. 26 .; comp. Mark 14:3-9. John explicitly says (Matthew 12:12) that the entry took place ‘the next day. The date is significant, for on the 10 th of Nisan the Paschal lamb was selected (Exodus 12:3), being kept until the 14 th.

This public entry was intentional, not accidental, nor caused by the zeal of His followers, as is evident from all the details, from the prophecy cited, and from the reply to the Pharisees (Luke 19:40: ‘If these should hold their peace the stones would immediately cry out’). It prepared the way for His sufferings by a public avowal of His mission, was a temporary assumption of His rightful royal prerogative, to hasten a decision in Jerusalem. A merciful measure to believing hearts, one of judgment to His enemies. A glimpse of glory given to men, but only increasing the hatred of the rulers, and hastening His death. A remarkable contrast to the procession to Golgotha (Luke 18:26 ff.), both strictly in keeping with the purpose of His mission, ‘to give His life a ransom for many .’

Verse 2

Matthew 21:2. Into the village. Bethphage; not Bethany, from which He had just come.

An ass tied, and a colt with her. More particular than Mark and Luke, who mention only the colt. The more literal fulfilment of the prophecy is thus shown. The unbroken animal would be quieter if the mother was with him.

Loose them. This act was to be significant of Christ’s royal prerogative. Yet in His exercise of power the willingness of men concurs.

Verse 3

Matthew 21:3. If any one lay aught, etc. Probably a prediction, as well as a measure of prudence. Both Mark and Luke give it in substance.

The Lord hath need of them. The tone is still royal, whether ‘the Lord’ here means ‘Jehovah,’ or simply ‘the Master.’ In the former case the animals would be claimed for religious purposes, by Divine authority; in the latter for the well-known prophet. The two meanings coincided in our Lord’s intention, whatever the owner would understand.

Verse 4

Matthew 21:4. Now this hath come to pass . Of this Divine purpose the disciples had no idea at the time (John 12:16). Lange: ‘The occasion and need of the moment was the obvious motive. But to the Spirit of God these historical occasions were arranged coincidences with the prophetical word. Christ was in need of the foal of the ass, inasmuch as He could not make His entrance on foot in the midst of a festal procession. He must not be lost in the crowd; it was necessary that He should take a prominent position, and appear preeminent. But if He became conspicuous, it must be in the most humble and peaceable fashion: hence the choice of the ass. The dignity of the procession required the ass’s colt, and this made the history all the more symbolical. But it could not be concealed from the Spirit of Christ ‘that here again the plain historical necessity coincided with the symbolically significant fulfilment of a prophetical word.’ Matthew was present, but only when afterwards inspired did he know what it meant.

Verse 5

Matthew 21:5. Tell ye the daughter of Zion. From Isaiah 62:11.

Behold thy king cometh, etc. From Zechariah 9:9. Both prophecies were referred to the Messiah by the Jews. Our Lord was to enter Jerusalem in a prominent position, not lost in the crowd thronging to the Passover feast; He chooses to ride upon the foal of an ass, not on a horse, the symbol of pride. But He thus fulfilled a prophetic announcement, in which the Messiah is represented as the king entering Jerusalem, and yet as lowly, the meekness symbolized by His riding upon an ass’s colt. The Fathers allegorized the incident, regarding the colt as a symbol of the Gentiles, untamed and unclean before Christ sat upon them and sanctified them, the mother representing Judaism under the yoke the law.

Verse 6

Matthew 21:6. Mark and Luke tell of the dialogue with the owners, which was virtually predicted by our Lord.

Verse 7

Matthew 21:7. Put on them their garments. Upper garments, to serve as a saddle.

And he sat thereon, lit., ‘on them,’ the animals, not the clothes. He rode on the colt (Mark and Luke), but the plural here is justified by the usage of the Greek language. It suggests moreover that this unbroken colt remained quiet because the mother was with it, thus affording an incidental evidence of truthfulness. Some suppose that the mother represents the Old Theocracy running idly by the side of the young Church, but this analogy is forced, since the mother went along to keep the colt quiet.

Verse 8

Matthew 21:8. Most of the multitude. Some (probably the mater number, as it would seem from Matthew 21:11) had come from Galilee and accompanied the Lord from Jericho, others had come out from Jerusalem (John 12:12), now crowded on account of the Passover. ‘It is probable that most of the latter were pilgrims, not inhabitants of the city, and are spoken of by John as ‘people that were come to the feast.” The priests, and scribes, and Pharisees, stood as angry or contemptuous spectators, and not only refused to join in the rejoicings and hosannas, but bade him rebuke His disciples, and command them to be silent (Luke 19:39).’ Andrews.

Spread their garments. ‘Oriental mark of honor at the reception of kings, on their entrance into cities: 2 Kings 9:13.’ (Lange.)

Others out branches. For the same purpose. Probably palm branches (John 12:13); significant of joy and victory.

Verse 9

Matthew 21:9. And the multitudes that went before him, etc. In responsive chorus. Such ‘antiphonies’ were common in Jewish worship, especially in the recitation of the Psalms. Those going before had probably come from Jerusalem to meet Him. Stanley: ‘Two vast streams of people met on that day. The one poured out from the city, and, as they came through the gardens whose clusters of palm rose on the southeastern comer of Olivet, they cut down the long branches, as was their wont at the feast of Tabernacles, and moved upward toward Bethany with loud shouts of welcome. From Bethany streamed forth the crowds, who had assembled there the previous night. The road soon loses sight of Bethany……The two streams met midway. Half of the vast mass, turning round preceded; the other half followed. Gradually the long procession swept up over the ridge where first begins “the descent of the Mount of Olives” toward Jerusalem. At this point the first view is caught of the southeastern corner of the city. The temple and the more northern portions are hid by the slope of Olivet on the right; what is seen is only Mount Zion……It was at this precise point (may it not have been from the sight thus opening upon them?) that the shout of triumph burst forth from the multitude: “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord!” A few moments and the path mounts again; it climbs a rugged ascent; it reaches a ledge of smooth rock, and in an instant the whole city bursts into view.’ Here He ‘wept over it’

Hosanna. The Greek form of a Hebrew word found in Psalms 118:25, meaning: ‘Save now,’ or ‘give thy salvation.’ Used as a congratulatory expression, here applied in the highest sense to the Messiah: the Son of David.

Blessed is he that cometh. etc. The greeting to the pilgrims at their entrance to Jerusalem on festival occasions (Psalms 118:26), and a part of the Passover hymn (Psalms 115-118.)

Hosanna in the highest, i.e., May our Hosanna be ratified in heaven. Other exclamations are mentioned by Mark and Luke, since in such a multitude they would differ. The crowd with enthusiasm thus nail Him as the Messiah, probably cherishing political hopes.

Verse 10

Matthew 21:10. All the city was moved. Excited by this occurrence. The question indicates a discussion of His character rather than ignorance of His person. The effect on the Pharisees is mentioned in Luke 19:39-40; John 12:19.

Verse 11

Matthew 21:11. The prophet Jesus from Nazareth of Galilee. The Galileans may have spoken of him with some pride as a well known prophet, but they do not now declare that He is the Messiah. The question ‘who is this?’ may have dampened their enthusiasm.

Verse 12

Matthew 21:12. And Jesus went into the temple of God . On the day of His entry, He had entered it and ‘looked round’ (Mark 11:11), as if to take formal possession of it. This entrance was on Monday to purify it; on Tuesday He took final leave of it (chap. Matthew 24:1). This was a fulfilment of the prophecy of Haggai (Matthew 2:9): ‘The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former.’

Cast out, from the court of the Gentiles.

Gold and bought. A market was held there, for the sale of animals and those things necessary for the temple service. Not the less a desecration because so great a convenience.

Money changers. The temple tribute must be paid in Jewish coin (Exodus 30:13), while Roman money was at that time the currency of Palestine. The agents for collecting this tribute (chap. Matthew 17:24) probably found it more convenient to exchange money at Jerusalem, and may have themselves been the ‘money changers.’

The seats, or ‘stands.’

The doves. Needed for offerings by the poor and at the purification of women. No resistance seems to have been offered. The traffickers were doubtless awed by the superhuman authority and dignity of our Lord.

Verses 12-22

The cleansing of the temple and the cursing of the barren fig tree were closely connected. According to the fuller account of Mark, on the day of His triumphal entry our Lord looked round about the temple, passed out to Bethany and lodged there. The next day (Monday), on His way to Jerusalem, He pronounced the curse on the barren fig tree, after wards cleansing the temple. The discourse about the fig tree took place the next morning (Tuesday). The order of Matthew, in accordance with his habit and purpose, points out more emphatically the unbelief of the chief priests and scribes (Matthew 21:15), as represented by the fig tree.

THE TEMPLE was built on Mount Moriah, the top of which was enlarged by building walls from the valley (of Jehosaphat) and filling in. The first edifice was erected by Solomon, in seven years (B. C. 1005 ), destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar (B. C. 584 ). The second by Zerubbabel, seventy years afterwards, on the same site. It was interior to the first, not in size but in magnificence; the ark had been burnt with the first temple, and the Shekinah (or visible Glory) did not return. (Its real return was the visit of Christ.) This building was frequently desolated and profaned, last of all by the Romans under Herod the Great, who, to gain favor with the Jews, afterwards restored it and rendered it more magnificent in some respects than before. The word ‘temple’ was applied to the whole inclosure, which was square in form. Inside its high wall were the ‘porches,’ or covered walks. Of these there were two rows; on the south side three. Solomon’s porch was on the east side towards the Mount of Olives, and so was the ‘Beautiful Gate,’ a magnificent entrance to the inclosure, directly facing the entrance to the temple proper. A second wall within the first divided the more sacred part of the inclosure from that into which Gentiles might enter: hence the outer court was called the court of the Gentiles. This was largest on the south side. The more sacred inclosure was an oblong square; the part nearest the Beautiful Gate was called the court of the women, and here the Jews commonly worshipped. On the western side of this court was a high wall, beyond this the court of the Israelites, entered after an ascent of fifteen steps by the Gate Nicanor. All around this court were rooms for the use of the Levites, and within it, separated from it by a low wall, was the court of the priests. At the eastern end of this court stood the altar of burnt offering and the laver, and here the daily service of the temple was performed. Within this court was the temple itself. In front of it was an elevated porch, and by the entrance, on the east side, stood the pillars Jachin and Boaz. The Holy place, a room sixty feet long and thirty broad, contained the golden candlestick, the table of shew-bread and the altar of incense. Beyond this was the Holy of Holies, a square apartment, separated from the Holy Place by a costly veil. Into this the High Priest entered once a year. White marble was the material chiefly used in the whole structure, and gold and silver plating was frequent in the more sacred parts of the edifice. Elevated as it was, and dazzling to the eye, as one came over ‘the mountains of Jerusalem,’ it could not fail to produce a powerful impression. Designed to convey a spiritual lesson, it too often only awakened pride. It has been regarded as the symbol of the dwelling-place of Jehovah; a figure of the human form; a symbol of heaven; a figure of the Jewish theocracy. But its highest significance was as a type of the body of Christ (John 2:21). In this view it was none the less the dwelling-place of Jehovah.

The court of the Gentiles, the scene of the incident we are about to consider, did not exist in the first or second temple. Owing to the advancement of proselytism and the fact that devout Gentiles (‘proselytes of the gate’) brought gifts to the temple, it grew in importance. See the Bible Dictionaries.

Verse 13

Matthew 21:13. It is written. The first clause is from Isaiah 56:7; the second from Jeremiah 7:7.

Ye make it a den of robbers. What they did here was a sign of the general venality and corruption, a desecration of a place of worship for purposes of gain, ill-gotten often enough. Isaiah adds, ‘for all nations’ (which Mark retains), alluding to the extension of God’s blessings to the Gentiles. This driving of bargains in the place where the Gentiles could come and pray, was a robbery, a contemptuous disregard of the rights and privileges of the Gentiles. At the beginning of His ministry (at the first Passover) our Lord had performed a similar cleansing, narrated by John (John 2:13-17). Such a cleansing was appropriate both at the beginning and the close of Christ’s ministry. In the first case it was more the act of a reformer; here it assumes a Messianic character. In both we find power, holy zeal for the honor of the Lord of the temple; hence an outbreak of passion is inconceivable.

Verse 14

Matthew 21:14. Blind and lame. ‘A house of prayer’ becomes a house of mercy. The making it ‘a den of robbers’ was unmerciful.

Verse 15

Matthew 21:15. Wonderful things. Including all His doings, especially this driving out of the traders.

And the children that were crying in the temple. The Hosannas of the day of entry were kept up by the children, probably only by the children.

Verse 16

Matthew 21:16. Hearest thou what these are saying? They seem to complain that children express a religious sentiment, and contemptuously hint that only children call Him Messiah. Bigotry can always find some trifle on which to ground its objections.

Did ye new read? A pointed rebuke, for He quotes from the Book it was their business to read.

Out of the month of babes, etc. From Psalms 8:2, which speaks of the great God being glorified by His insignificant creatures, although we find in it a typical reference to the Messiah. Lange: 1 . The praise of the Messiah is the praise of God. 2 . The praise of children is a praise which God Himself has prepared for Himself, the miraculous energy of His Spirit. 3 . The scribes might fill up the rest: Thou hast prepared praise ‘on account of Thine adversaries to bring to silence the enemy and the accuser.’

Verse 17

Matthew 21:17. And he left them, etc. On Monday evening (see Introductory note).

Bethany was His stronghold.

Verse 18

Matthew 21:18. N ow in the morning. On Monday morning. To give point to the incident, Matthew, unites the two morning walks from Bethany (on Monday and Tuesday).

He hungered. An actual physical want; it may have been occasioned by His leaving Bethany very early in His zeal to purify the temple where He had seen the abuses as He looked about on the previous evening. Human want and Divine power are exhibited simultaneously. On Sunday He entered Jerusalem amid hosannas, on Monday in hunger. This hunger may symbolize His longings for some better fruit from His chosen people.

Verse 19

Matthew 21:19. A single (lit., ‘one’) fig tree. A solitary one.

By the way side, where it was customary to plant such trees, as the dust was thought to help the productiveness.

But leaves only. Mark adds: ‘for the time of figs was not yet.’ The usual explanation is that the fruit of the fig tree precedes the leaf, hence it promised fruit. A recent traveller in Palestine (T. W. Chambers) says this is not the case, and gives the following explanation: ‘The tree bears two crops, an early ripe fig which is crude and without flavor and valueless, and a later fig which is full of sweetness and flavor, and highly esteemed. All trees bear the first, only good ones have the second. Now the tree our Lord saw had not the second, for the time of that had not yet come, but it had not even the first, for it had nothing but leaves, and the lack of the first was sure evidence that the second would also ‘be wanting.’ The solitary tree was a figure of Israel set by itself; the leaves represented the hypocritical pretensions to sanctity, the barrenness the lack of real holiness. Applicable to false professors in every age.

No more shall there be fruit from thee, etc. Peter (Mark 11:21) calls this a cursing of the tree, i.e., a condemning to destruction. A miracle of punishment, both a parable and prophecy in action: a ‘parable,’ teaching that false professors will be judged; a ‘prophecy’ in its particular application to the Jews. There is no evidence that this affected private property. The miracle is a proof of goodness and severity. (In the Old Testament the fig tree appears as a symbol of evil.)

And immediately the fig tree withered away. On Tuesday morning it was found to be ‘dried up from the roots’ (Mark 11:20). The application to the Jewish people is unmistakable. Both the actual desolation of the land and the judgment on the people are prefigured. The curse was for falsehood as well as barrenness. The true fruit of any people before the Incarnation would have been to own that they had no fruit, that without Christ they could do nothing. The Gentiles owned this; but the Jews boasted of their law, temple, worship, ceremonies, prerogatives, and good works, thus resembling the fig tree with pretensions, deceitful leaves without fruit. Their condemnation was, not that they were sick, but that, being sick, they counted themselves whole (condensed from Trench and Witsius).

Verse 21

Matthew 21:21. If ye have faith. Comp. chap. Matthew 17:20; Mark 11:22. Such faith also could perhaps exist only in Christ Himself, but as it was approximated by the disciples their power would correspond.

To this mountain. Either the Mount of Olives, the size and exceeding difficulty being thus emphasized, or the mount on which the temple stood. The latter reference suggests that they in their faith should bring about the destruction of the Jewish theocracy. Punitive power is spoken of; hence the faith required forbids arbitrariness and also an unforgiving spirit (comp. Mark 11:25-26, where the latter thought is brought out). This promise has a spiritual application to all believers, but gives no encouragement to fanatical attempts at working miracles.

Verse 22

Matthew 21:22. And all things, etc. Mark: ‘therefore,’ showing that the primary application, so far as miraculous power is concerned, was to the Twelve. As applied to all Christians, it is of course confined to prayers of faith (Matthew 21:21-22), implying agreement with the will of God, and excluding the abuse of this promise. Christ defines believing and effective prayer to be prayer in His name (John 14:13; John 15:16; John 16:24).

Verse 23

Matthew 21:23. Into the temple, probably the ‘court of the Israelites.’

The chief priests and the alders of the people. Mark and Luke add: ‘the scribes.’ Perhaps a formal delegation from the Sanhedrin.

By what authority doest thou these things! Referring both to His teaching there, and to His cleansing of the temple on the previous day. They were the proper persons to challenge His authority.

And who gave thee, etc. ‘Even if you assume to be a prophet, who sent you?’ A hint at the old charge of Satanic power.

Verses 23-46

TIME. Tuesday, in the temple, after the discourse about the fig tree. The events recorded in chaps, 22 , 23 , took place on the same day; the discourse in chaps, 24 , 26 , was delivered in the evening as our Lord returned from Jerusalem to Bethany (on the Mount of Olives).

The assault of the high priests quickly repelled by the question about the Baptist (Matthew 21:23-27): two parables directed against them (Matthew 21:28-32; Matthew 21:33-44); their continued hostility (Matthew 21:45-46). A Third parable (chap. Matthew 22:1-14), which might be included in this section, is placed by itself, because peculiar to Matthew and probably uttered later (see Matthew 21:45-46).

Verse 24

Matthew 21:24. I also, etc. Our Lord places His authority and that of John together. If they were incompetent to decide in the one case, they were in the other. The opportunity to decide aright was given them, but they refused it.

Verse 25

Matthew 21:25. The baptism of John. As representing his whole ministry.

And they reasoned, consulted, so as to agree upon the answer.

Verse 26

Matthew 21:26. From men. This they evidently believed.

We fear the multitude. Demagogues who lead ‘the multitude’ astray ‘fear the multitude.’

Verse 27

Matthew 21:27. We know not. A falsehood; as Matthew 21:25-26, show.

Neither tell I you, etc. Christ answers their thought: we will not tell. This refusal is similar to that made when a sign from heaven was demanded (chap. Matthew 12:38 ff.). The answer assumes their proven and confessed incompetency to decide on the authority of a prophet, and consequently His superiority to their questioning. Such a defeat increased their opposition.

Verse 28

Matthew 21:28. But what think ye. Peculiar to Matthew. This parable assumes the concealment and falsity of their real opinion. Spoken in love, as an invitation and warning, it led to greater enmity.

Two sons. The two classes represented are mentioned in Matthew 21:3.

Child. Affectionate address.

Go work today in the vineyard. God asks His people to labor every day in the work He appoints to them, but a special work is here meant, namely, ‘belief;’ see Matthew 21:32; comp. John 6:29: ‘This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him, whom He -hath sent.’

Verse 29

Matthew 21:29. Repented, ‘changed his mind; ‘the application refers to genuine repentance.

Verse 30

Matthew 21:30. I will go, sir. I, in contrast with this one who refuses; an expression of pride. The answer was hypocritical, since it is not added that he changed his mind, but simply went not.

Verse 31

Matthew 21:31. The publicans were already entering, having listened to John’s preaching of repentance, and being disposed to follow Christ.

Go before you. This does not imply that the rulers would follow; though it invites them to do so.

Verse 32

Matthew 21:32. In the way of righteousness. In the way of repentance, turning to that righteousness of life (which the Pharisees professed to esteem); perhaps with an allusion to Christ Himself as the Way (John 14:6).

Did not even repent afterward. Even after seeing the repentance of these classes, you did not profit by it. Remarkable cases of conversion are designed to be means of influencing others. In the parable the refusing yet repenting son is put first because it suited the application to the publicans who ‘went before.’ In the more general application there is no such priority. The proud and hypocritical are always harder to influence than open sinners.

Verse 33

Matthew 21:33. Hear another parable. Spoken to the chief priests and elders, so embittered by the result of their attack. This parable points out the crime to which their enmity was leading them, though still spoken in love. ‘I have not done with you yet; I have still another word of warning and rebuke’ (Trench).

There was a man that was a householder, or as in chap. Matthew 20:1: a human householder.

Planted a vineyard; the most valuable plantation but requiring the most constant labor and care; an apt figure of the theocracy (Isaiah 5:1-7; Isaiah 3:14; Song of Solomon 2:15,) here representing the Jewish people, as the Old Testament kingdom of God. A secondary application to the external Church in later times is required by Matthew 21:43, where the vineyard (‘the kingdom of God’) is represented as passing over to others.

Set a hedge about it. Probably a hedge of thorns, possibly a wall. God had separated His people from other nations, and guarded them from heathen influences, by the law (comp. Ephesians 2:14) and by external marks of distinction. God’s special proprietorship and care are plainly emphasized.

Digged a wine-press. Mark: ‘digged a pit for the wine-press.’ The former was a receptacle into which the juice flowed, and where it was kept cool; the latter, the place where the grapes were trodden out. This seems to be added to complete the description. Some suppose it represents the altar of the Old Testament economy, others the prophetic institution.

Built a tower. For the watchman who guarded the vineyard against depredations. In the time of the vintage, used for recreation, no doubt, as in European countries. Such towers are still common in the East, and are of considerable height. A shed or scaffold sometimes served the same purpose. This represents the provision made by Goa for the protection and prosperity of His people, especially the Old Testament Church.

Let it out to husbandmen; probably for a part of the fruit, as is indicated by comparing Matthew 21:34 (‘his fruits’) with Luke 20:10 (‘of the fruit of the vineyard’). The parable of the laborers also (chap. Matthew 20:1-16) introduces the idea of reward. It has pleased God that in His kingdom of grace laborers should receive a reward, ‘of grace’ (comp. 1 Corinthians 3:8; 2 Timothy 2:6). The ‘husbandmen’ represent the rulers of the Jews (Matthew 21:45), but the people as individuals are included (Matthew 21:43). The vineyard is the people as a chosen nation.

And went into another country, not ‘far country,’ there being no reference to distance. The peculiar presence of God, necessary at the institution of the Theocracy (Mount Sinai, etc.), ceased, though His spiritual care did not. A period of human development followed. The same is true, in a secondary application, of the Church since the Apostolic times. Luke adds: ‘for a long time,’ and these developments require time.

Verse 34

Matthew 21:34. The season of the fruits. Probably no definite time is here represented. God expects fruit after such careful preparation; His people, especially those in official stations, are responsible for the trust committed to them.

He sent his servants; the prophets of the Old Testament, calling for the fruits of righteousness from the Jewish people.

Verse 35

Matthew 21:35. Took his servants, and heat one, etc. The maltreatment of the servants appears in the history of the prophets (Elijah, Jeremiah, Isaiah); comp. Nehemiah 9:26; Matthew 23:29-31; Matthew 23:34; Matthew 23:37; 1 Thessalonians 2:15; Hebrews 11:36-38; Revelation 16:6; Revelation 18:24. God’s messengers have often suffered since at the hands of the official personages in the external Church.

Verse 36

Matthew 21:36. Again, etc. The second sending probably does not refer to any definite time, but sets forth God’s long-suffering. In Mark’s account the climax is the killing of a servant, here the stoning. The former respects the actual suffering of the servants, the latter the hostility of the husbandmen.

Verse 37

Matthew 21:37. His Son. Comp. Mark 12:6: ‘a beloved son,’ Luke 20:13: ‘my beloved son.’ The sending of ‘His son,’ whose superiority to the prophets is so distinctly marked, is the last and crowning act of God’s mercy; to reject Him was therefore to fill up the measure of human sin and guilt. ‘The Son appears here, not in His character of Redeemer, but in that of a preacher, a messenger demanding the fruits of the vineyard.’ (Alford.) Hence this is the real answer to their challenge of His authority (Matthew 21:23).

They will reverence my son. This implies that God is not willing that any should perish (2 Peter 1:9).

Verse 38

Matthew 21:38. This is the heir. ‘Heir’ in virtue of His human nature, Hebrews 1:1-2.

Keep his inheritance. Not ‘seize.’ An expression of folly (in addition to the wicked resolve), as though the death of the heir would permit them to hold the possession, while the householder lived. This assumes an unwilling conviction of the Messiah-ship of Jesus, on the part of the rulers. Up to this point the parable was History, here it becomes Prophecy. In the attempt to maintain their own authority, which He had challenged, by putting Him to death, they foolishly defied God. Some of them might have thought, if we try to kill Him, He will save himself, if He is the Messiah (comp, the taunt during the crucifixion, chap. Matthew 27:40); but this prophetic word should have banished that thought.

Verse 39

Matthew 21:39. Cast him forth out of the vineyard. This refers either to the excommunication which preceded death, or to the crucifixion outside the gates of Jerusalem; perhaps to both, the latter being a result of the former. Mark inverts the order.

And slew him. Our Lord here recognizes the fixed purpose of the rulers to kill Him. Yet there is still love in the warning.

Verse 40

Matthew 21:40. When therefore the lord, etc. The question is asked, that they may be warned and condemned out of their own mouth. Matthew is fuller here than Mark and Luke.

Verse 41

Matthew 21:41. They say unto him, i.e., the rulers. Probably the people joined in the answer, as the parable was spoken to them also (Luke 20:9) Mark and Luke seem to put these words in the mouth of our Lord.

He will miserably destroy those miserable men. The order and repetition of the original might be thus reproduced: ‘these wretches will he wretchedly destroy.’ The rulers, whether wittingly or unwittingly, condemn themselves.

To other husbandmen. An unconscious prophecy, if they did not yet understand the parable; daring hypocrisy, if they did. The destruction of the husbandmen points to the destruction of Jerusalem, which is therefore the coming of the Lord of the vineyard (Matthew 21:40). In that case the heir who was killed becomes Himself ‘the lord of the vineyard; ‘comp, what follows with Peter’s citation of the same passage shortly after the day of Pentecost (Acts 3:10).

Verse 42

Matthew 21:42. The stone, etc. From Psalms 118:22. The ‘Hosannas’ at our Lord’s entry to Jerusalem were taken from the same Psalm. The original reference of the passage is doubtful, whether to David or to Zerubbabel (Zechariah 3:8-9; Zechariah 4:7); but it is properly applied to the Messiah. Compare Isaiah 28:16, which Peter cites in connection with it (1 Peter 2:6-7; comp. Romans 9:33).

The builders rejected. The rulers of the Jews (‘the husbandmen’), whose duty it was to build up the spiritual temple, now addressed in rebuke and warning.

The head of the corner. The most important foundation stone, joining two walls. A reference to the union of Jews and Gentiles in Christ (as in Ephesians 2:19-22) may be included, but the main thought is, that the Messiah, even if rejected by the ‘builders,’ should become the corner-stone of the real temple of God. This involves the important idea, that the ‘builders’ would be themselves rejected: the parable left the Son dead outside of the vineyard, this citation, representing Him as victor and avenger (Matthew 21:44), points to the resurrection.

This head of the comer was from the Lord, etc. ‘This’ must grammatically refer either to ‘head’ or ‘comer.’ Others understand it as ‘this thing,’ this exaltation of the despised one.

Verse 43

Matthew 21:43. Therefore. The parable is taken up again. Because this word of God applies to you, this interpretation also applies to you.

The kingdom of God shall be taken away from you. The ‘vineyard’ means the ‘kingdom of God’ in all ages, not exclusively the Jewish people.

To a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof. Not to the Gentiles as such, but to the spiritual Israel (comp. 1 Corinthians 10:18; Galatians 4:29), to be constituted mainly from the Gentiles. Strikingly fulfilled in the first century, but secondary fulfilments are constantly taking place. Privilege abused ever leads to this result.

Verse 44

Matthew 21:44. And he that falleth on this stone, i.e., the corner-stone, Christ (Matthew 21:42). This verse expands the clause: ‘He will miserably destroy these miserable men,’ adding the thought that Christ Himself is the Judge, whose coming will result in a twofold punishment.

Will be broken. Probably a reference to Isaiah 8:14-15. He who runs against or falls over the cornerstone, making Christ a spiritual offence or stumbling-block (comp. 1 Peter 2:8), will be bruised. This is the punishment of the active enemy of the passive Christ.

And whomsoever it shall fall, it will scatter him as chaff. When Christ is the active Judge this utter destruction will be the full punishment of His enemies. Repentance may intervene and avert this final result. There is a reference hire to Daniel 2:34-35; Daniel 2:44, the stone in that prophecy being identified with that mentioned in Psalms 118:0, Isaiah 8:0, and with Christ Himself. In addition to the striking fulfilment in the case of the Jewish rulers, there is an obvious application to all who oppose Christ, who take offence at Him as the corner-stone.

Verses 45-46

Matthew 21:45-46. They now perceived, if not before, that the parable referred to them; their determination to kill Him became fixed (see Mark 12:12; Luke 20:19). Avoiding open violence because the multitude held him for a prophet, they welcomed treachery and at last carried the multitude with them.

Bibliographical Information
Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on Matthew 21". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/scn/matthew-21.html. 1879-90.
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